Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Autumn Tales of Melancholy and Hope

Autumn was made for melancholy reflection, with a nod to hope and the eventual return of spring. What better way, then, to spend a grey November afternoon than considering the selection of stories and articles on offer in this season’s edition of Vintage Script?

Blue Hat For A Blue Day
Bernie Deehan
Bernie takes us on a trip round 1950s Soho where we meet larger-than-life characters Holloway Harry, Frida—in her ‘big fur coat and red heels’—and the adored Betsy. Bernie’s clever touch blends humour with poignancy, as he describes a society on the cusp between two worlds—the memories of war not so far away, and the beckoning of the new world of beboppers and skiffle kids. Bernie’s tale is a proper story that’s also a snapshot in time of a bygone era, and described so skilfully that you’re breathing in the hot, smoky atmosphere of those Soho jazz clubs…
Tales From The Crypt
Kirsty Ferry
Kirsty—mistress of the Gothic—shows us her dark side in this enthralling account of the unveiling of the Belzoni Sarcophagus by Sir John Soane in 1825. Not only does Kirsty set the scene with her description of the flickering light in the Crypt and the funerary paraphernalia, she also explains Soane’s long-held fascination with death, against a backdrop of the Romantic movement of the day. Get yourself down to Whitby, Kirsty!
The Robin
Nick Brazil
The Robin was inspired by a letter from D. H. Lawrence published many years after his death describing the village in Oxfordshire where the story is set—it’s also where Nick lives. Nick has a photographer’s eye, you can tell, as he sprinkles the story with sharp visual details—the robin scratching at the ground for food, the silhouette of a destroyer in flames seen from a window—which entice you to read more.
Digging Up The Family: The 1918 Influenza Pandemic
Gill Garrett
The effects of the 1918 Spanish ’flu’ pandemic were shocking and far-reaching. Here Gill adds a very personal touch to the story, as she imagines how the disease brought devastation to her ancestor, Mary Garrett. Gill adds a fresh slant to the story interspersing it with scenes from a modern-day virology seminar, adding another layer to this clever tale.
Point Of Contact
E. A. M. Harris
Ann, the heroine of E. A. M. Harris’ story, is modest of her literary talent. The writer captures her spirit beautifully in her understated descriptions: ‘With her left hand she grips the back of a dining chair; in her right she holds a dainty milk jug. It tips dangerously but she pays it no attention…As usual she turns first to her husband’s report of yesterday’s debates in Parliament. At her touch the pages rustle importantly’. The reader is effortlessly drawn into Ann’s life and imagination, and left wanting to know more.

Cathy Mason
Cathy not only describes the Kidderminster weavers’ strike of 1828—she brings it to life with her lively dialogue and vivid description: ‘The jagged chimneys of Kidderminster’s factories cut into the early morning, sea-blue skyline; determining the landscape just as the work inside imprinted itself on their faces’. This well-researched piece has it all: a personal connection with the subject matter, atmosphere and the feeling that the reader is witnessing a remarkable time in history. More please, Cathy!

Autocracy and Democracy: Whitehall in the Political History of the United Kingdom
Michael Montagu
Whitehall—synonymous with power and prestige, and associated with the Remembrance Day parade of this time of year. It’s only fitting that Michael should take us on a behind-the-scenes tour for the Autumn edition. Michael’s an expert at packing his articles full of unexpected details: the lost palace of Whitehall, he tells us, boasted four tennis courts, a cockpit and a bowling alley, and its hunting grounds survive today as St James’ Park, Green Park, Regents Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It’s always good to have an insider to take you on a trip through history, and Michael never disappoints!
Our Day Out
Jennifer Foster
Jennifer gets under the skin of a group of children who visit Salisbury Cathedral not long after the Second World War. Their write-ups of the event are both telling and poignant—revealing their pasts, and their desires and aspirations for the future. The visit has a profound impact on one girl, prompting her to recall a fateful night some years previously: ‘We were going to be evacuated the next day, and I was round the corner at Auntie Mary’s fetching a suitcase when the bomb fell. We dragged and pushed at the rubble, our hands bled, trying to reach Mother and Annie, but there was a fire and the wardens pulled us away’. Another elegant tale from Jennifer.
The Look Every Woman Wanted
Roger Harvey
Roger’s the master of nostalgia with his informative account of the unveiling of Dior’s “New Look” in 1947. His descriptions of the swirling skirts and figure-hugging jackets of Dior’s look make you want to travel back in time and slip them on. Roger’s got a great eye for detail and it’s gems such as, ‘…there could be more than 20 yards of material in one of those New Look skirts,’ that we love!
New Model Army
Gemma Bristow

Vintage Script newcomer Gemma sets the scene beautifully in this Civil War tale, blending description with a tense narrative: ‘
The camp began to break up. Men doused fires and headed for their bedrolls, some in the barn nearby, others on the grass. Denham looked one last time for James’. Short, bitter-sweet and with a twist at the end…perfect!
The Pugilist Parson: The Strange Tale of Radford of Lapford
James Downs
James’ article ticks all the boxes for an autumnal read: a quirky character, tons of atmosphere and an element of danger. There’s no doubt that Radford of Lapford is a shadowy character—‘As a young man he travelled the county in the role of a scissors-grinder, entering fighting and wrestling competitions at rural fairs in places…A well-known drinker, he was often found in Exeter late on a Saturday night, in a “supremely jolly state”’. James’ storytelling is tantalising and urges you to find out more about this man and what made him tick…
The Charcoal Burner’s Daughter
Shirley Cook

Shirley took inspiration from her own family history for her story, where she beautifully describes the art of charcoal-burning: ‘I clear the ruined kiln and smooth the ground. I hammer a wooden stake in the centre and mark the hearth width, then I start to build the flue…I walk back and forth, collecting the cords of oak’. She offsets this precision with evocative descriptions—‘Pigeons coo around me and in the distance a cuckoo calls. May is my favourite month, everything is fresh and the woods are carpets of blue,’—and throws in a hint of romance for good measure. Bravo, Shirley!
The autumn edition of Vintage Script is on sale now.

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